Get back in the car! These three spots are well worth the detour.
Pit-smoked with a dry rub
Snow's BBQ, Lexington, Tex.
At only 7 years old, Snow's is just a baby compared with the state's other seasoned barbecue spots, most of which have been open for more than half a century. But judging by the lines, Texas barbecue lovers—who tend to be a traditional bunch—have decided age doesn't matter when the food is this good. Started by former rodeo clown Kerry Bexley so that his teenage daughters could get some work experience—before they left for college, you'd find them there taking orders every Saturday—Snow's has won people over with its brisket, ribs, and pork steak. Pit master Tootsie Tomanetz, who is in her mid-70s, comes in at 2 a.m. to tend to the already-smoking meat (it cooks for a good eight to 10 hours before the place opens at 8 a.m.). Time your visit carefully: Snow's is open on Saturdays only, and as soon as the food sells out—usually around noon—the doors close. 516 Main St., 979/773-4640, snowsbbq.com, entrées from $9.
KANSAS CITY STYLE
Tangy tomato-based sauce with a hint of molasses
Snead's, Belton, Mo.
Snead's menu is chock-full of choices: sliced pork, ribs, beef brisket. But the restaurant is especially known for its "brownies," also known as burnt ends. Juicy little nuggets cut from the tips of brisket or ham, brownies are crispy, smoky, and utterly delicious. They're served with slices of white bread—true KC style—French fries, and a handful of dill pickles. Be careful when you reach for the extra sauce on the table: Locals know that the bottle with the rubber band around it is mild, but the other one is absurdly hot. Unlucky newcomers can be in for a painful surprise. 101 E. 171st St., 816/331-9858, brownies from $10.
Barbecue sandwiches and wet and dry ribs
Craig's Barbecue, DeValls Bluff, Ark.
DeValls Bluff is barely a dot on the map, but it happens to have some of the meanest Memphis-style barbecue around. Craig's Barbecue, in an unassuming white stand-alone building, has been serving its pork, ribs, and smoked chicken since the '40s. The ultimate local favorite: a sandwich with pulled pork dressed in a mild, medium, or hot red sauce and—the special house touch—coleslaw, all together on a bun. For dessert, those in the know head across the street to the Family Pie Shop (locals call it Miss Mary's), a stucco shack with some seriously delicious coconut and chocolate pie. Hwy. 70, 870/998-2616, sandwiches from $3.50.
Barbecue smackdown! What's the all-time best barbecue city in the USA? Share your opinion by posting a comment below.